A Place to Go
A Place to Go is a group of RTKL staff attempting to make a difference through design. The team is working to design, fund and build a sustainable biogas toilet for the Jitegemee School in Machakos, Kenya. The $15,000 unit will help save energy, eliminate the need for costly and dirty charcoal, provide compost for the school garden, recycle waste and produce biogas to fuel more efficient stoves in the school kitchen. By embracing a new way of thinking about toilet design, the school can improve the quality of life for students and the surrounding community.
- Best of the Best, by RTKL (2013)
Visit the Website
team member Mark Palmer traveled to Machakos as a part of a group from Architecture for Humanity DC to host a school design workshop with students, parents, and staff from the Jitegemee community. The workshop sought to engage users in the design of the new campus and consisted of activities to help explain the process, prompt discussion and allow the community to determine the program based on their needs. It was also the beginning of a beautiful relationship between a man and a toilet.
The Jitegemee School is a community center located in Machakos, Kenya which serves approximately 200 children as an alternative to life on the street. The center provides a meal program, health education, tutoring, vocational training and job placement.
A new campus is currently being constructed that will include classrooms, a library, technology center, staff offices and a kitchen. The campus will be a sustainable model for the community by showcasing rainwater collection, solar hot-water heating, biogas production, poultry farming and a tree nursery.
The existing toilet at the Jitegemee School is a single pit-latrine. All 200 students – both boys and girls – currently share this single toilet. When the pit is full, a new hole is dug and the latrine is simply moved to a new location and the old hole is filled with soil. We viewed this particular aspect of the new campus as an opportunity to make a big difference in the quality of life for Jitegemee students.
In January of 2013,
a group of RTKL employees formed a team seeking to leverage the diverse expertise, network and resources of our large firm to promote positive change through design and social action. In addition to the larger effort to design, fund and build the sustainable toilet, the team also set a goal to engage and inform both the Jitegemee and RTKL communities about the potential long-term impact of improved sanitation and biogas production. A Place to Go would become a forum for challenging the traditional model of client-driven work through the implementation of an idea through grassroots action.
From the beginning, we knew we wanted this effort to have its own identity. Something to promote. Something for people to connect with. We also knew this identity had to be simple, but express a sense of humor due to the tongue and cheek tone of our campaign and the tabooed nature of our subject matter. The final A Place To Go logo hit the sweet spot, perfectly straddling the line between professional and playful. The “A” is a nod to the current pit latrine used at the school, with the footprints reminding us of the kids who will benefit from this effort. The simplicity of the logo has allowed for it to work across mediums and applications in any scale or color.
How it works
An important part of our campaign and fundraising efforts was communicating to potential donors how the biogas toilet works. This simple graphic was created to illustrate the entire process from poop to plate and back again. The graphic has been used in a variety of mediums, including an animated version for our intro video, an interactive version on our website and a still version for use in presentations.
The First Fundraiser
Outside of reaching out to friends and family, the team’s first big fundraising effort was to raise $700 to send designer Patrick to Machakos for the campus ground breaking to meet with students and the local biogas contractor. A Place to Go partnered with a local bar to host the Ginger Binger, raising money through raffle sales, donated art auction, partial proceeds from specialty drink sales and donations at the door. The event engaged over forty RTKL DC staff members and exceeded our goal, raising over $900.
Patrick goes to Africa
Designer Patrick traveled to Machakos to meet with Jitegemee School students, teaching them about biogas toilets and the benefits the system would provide to the school. While there, he met with a local contractor that specializes in constructing biogas toilets and was able to visit similar units in use in surrounding communities. He returned slightly sunburned, but more determined than ever to build this toilet.
Game of Thrones Fundraiser
Through efforts to engage our personal and professional networks, including a sizable donation from RTKL, the team had raised over $10,000 for the toilet. With only $5,000 to go, it was time to host our major fundraising event. Funded wholly through vendor relationships, Game of Thrones was a toilet art competition and fundraiser targeting the local DC design community. Bringing in over 100 guests, the event featured 18 toilet seats designed by local artists as well as a raffle for a custom A Place to Go cornhole set. The event raised over $2,500 and provided an opportunity to inform the local design community about A Place to Go as we approached the final leg of our fundraising efforts.
In October of 2013,
A Place to Go officially reached its $15,000 fundraising goal. Through the support and generous donations of over 150 individuals, six industry partners and two fundraising events, the team was able to achieve what we set out to do. Phase one complete. Now it’s time to build that toilet.
A Place to Go goes on
While we were busy campaigning, a lot was going on in Machakos. Construction of the main campus is already underway and an on-site feasibility study for the toilet is planned for early January with construction of the toilet is scheduled for early 2014. The A Place to Go team has entered a new phase of public outreach, presenting the project to other RTKL offices and local firms as well as continued engagement with the Jitegemee School. We’re also beginning to work on developing our thank you swag for donors and working to keep them informed on our continued progress towards giving Jitegemee students a place to go.